Why the Mound Will Never Be My Rock: Part 1

You have to be able to accept failure to get better. — Lebron James

I’ve heard a lot of young athletes, like me, say they succeed by focusing on nothing but winning. It’s their primary goal, their ultimatum, their center.

It also means no failure. To do this requires a kind of focus and an intensity that’s pretty hard to endure at times. But succeeding, being the best–especially when you’re used to it–feels like nothing else on the planet.

Or so I thought.

Something unexpected happens when you stop being the best all the time and start performing worse than you’re used to. Suddenly, something that meant everything to you, that was everything to you, isn’t your primary source of happiness anymore.

If success on the field equals happiness, experiencing failure leaves no room for happiness.

I fell into this dark trap in college. I thought to succeed, to be the best, to win–not just at baseball, but at life–I couldn’t fail…not just for me, but mostly not for others, for my teammates, my coaches, the fans, the people on twitter telling me I wasn’t going to make it.

I couldn’t fail or I’d let them down or prove them right.Turns out I was very wrong.

It turns out I could fail. A lot, even.

I started doubting myself and my abilities.

Was I really the athlete people said I was? Was I really worthy of being a first round draft pick? Was I going to be a failure, not a front runner? What happened? What IS happening??

In trying to figure all of it out I started becoming someone I did not and never wanted to be. I did things I never thought I’d do, because the lack of success in baseball created a hole in my life that needed to be filled. But I wasn’t sure with what…

When how you pitch that day dictates everything, things get hairy. I was fine on the days I played well, or had a great practice. But on the days I didn’t?

You didn’t want to know me. I didn’t want to know me.

And the more I performed poorly, the worse I felt. I couldn’t figure out how to fix this problem or my attitude. I kept thinking that if I just got back to pitching like I used to, if I just won a little more, if I was just a bit better than the rest, I’d start feeling happy again.

But none of those things were happening. I didn’t realize that failure was inevitable. Just because I didn’t do the best one day (or for a couple months…) didn’t mean I was a failure forever, or ever for that matter. But that’s how I felt!

I realized there are so many factors other than me that play into how well I perform on a given day. To relinquish my happiness to something so out of my control started to seem insane. No person or technique was going to make every hitter miss my pitches, not even God.

If I wanted to be truly happy and feel truly fulfilled, I needed to shift my focus — my center — onto something I could control.

I needed to be okay whether I succeeded or failed. I needed to find my confidence again, outside of the result of the game. I couldn’t be the best just to feel good. It didn’t work that way. Perfection–a life without failure–was obviously impossible.

It dawned on me that maybe what I really needed was something that didn’t have to be in my control to bring me joy, that didn’t require me to be perfect. Something without wins or losses. Something consistent, reliable, and deeply meaningful.

Sometimes, and luckily for me, God has a way of preparing you for what you need the most, right when you need it.

And just before things took a turn for the worse, a special someone walked–well, tweeted–into the picture and changed my life, for good.

This post was originally published on my dear friend Megan May Miller’s blog. Megan has been a huge friend, ally and part of my journey towards a centered, fulfilling life. I l’ll be writing Part 2 on her blog next week, so don’t forget to check it out. Oh! and follow Megan on twitter!

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